Messaging services like WhatsApp have been in the headlines quite a bit lately. People are calling them “the new social media.” Not entirely accurate—but not completely wrong either. Messaging apps are taking over the youth market in the same way Myspace did back in the early aughts. Publishers, agencies, and brands are all getting wise to the rising tide of SMS+.
There’s good reason for them to as well. According to Adweek, messaging apps are able to retain over 60% of installers after a year. That’s 5.6x more than the average app!
Not only do messaging apps outpace the average in terms of retention, users log into them 4.7x more than the mean, at 9 times daily. With all this activity it’s clear the trend of content distribution will be stepping into the messaging world soon.
Of course, the publishing world is already dipping its toes. A year ago, WhatsApp allowed apps like BuzzFeed and Shazam to use an experimental “share to WhatsApp” button on their sites. Shazam reported that the button accounted for 10% of its sharing activity. When WhatsApp went public with the button last May, the results were outrageous. FTW saw the button claim 18% of its overall sharing activity within a week, and that’s only the amount of people who click the button—there’s no way to tell how often the link gets copied and pasted into new conversations from there.
In fact, one of the biggest problems with using messaging apps as distribution channels is that all the traffic from these apps is “dark traffic,” meaning analytics software can’t detect where the traffic is coming from. Another limitation is that most apps limit the size of broadcast lists. For example, on WhatsApp the maximum list size is 256 people. For publishers with hundreds of thousands of followers, broadcasting their message to thousands of lists can be a daunting task for the intern.
Nevertheless, publishers are forging ahead (sorry interns), and not just on WhatsApp. The WSJ has over 400K followers on its Line account, and 300K on WeChat. Social publisher NowThis is on Yo and Kik. The BBC has a Line account with around 500K followers.
One thing you might wonder about is why these publishers are using different platforms. Well, there are a couple reasons. First off, there’re various features available on various apps: not all apps are created equal.
Another reason publishers are adopting multiple platforms is the variation in regional preferences and global reach. Different apps dominate different markets:
With all these publishers hopping into messaging for content distribution purposes, brands are sure to follow very soon in a big way. Agencies are already preparing for this inevitability. If marketers can overcome or work within the limitations presented by chat apps there’s a huge opportunity for them. Pretty soon I expect clients will be asking their digital agencies what can be done in the SMS+ sphere…so get ready, the future is now.